Couchsurfing with a family is a bit different. But what is it like?
We interviewed Couchsurfing Ambassador Filippo about about his experiences Couchsurfing with his family. Filippo Occhipinti joined Couchsurfing in 2005 and has hosted hundreds of travelers in his home in Palermo (Sicily, Italy). His life changed radically when he married fellow Couchsurfer Marianna and their son Bruno was born
We were curious to find out how Bruno’s birth has affected their Couchsurfing activity.
“Planning with Bruno to reach Nordkapp by car!” (Photo taken 2 months after Bruno’s birth)
Filippo, since you have a family, have you been travelling and Couchsurfing less than before?
No, my travelling habits haven’t changed that much since I have a family. Obviously, having fun is no longer partying until late as it used to be in the past; it can also be going to bed early and listening to my son telling me his personal story about the funny dragons he saw in the forbidden city, or still getting excited with him because each time the airplane is sooo cool!
With my wife Marianna and my son Bruno, we have travelled in several countries within Europe, but also in other continents. We drove from Sicily to Nordkapp (Norway), crossed Turkey, visited Georgia and Armenia, and travelled through Iran and China. During all these trips we were hosted by Couchsurfers. I believe that if you are able to take care of your children at home, you can also do that while travelling in another country, you simply must be organized and flexible.
“I believe that if you are able to take care of your children at home, you can also do that while travelling in another country, you simply must be organized and flexible.”
As a guest with a family, was it more difficult to find a host?
As an active member of Couchsurfing, I never had problems finding a host, and it’s even easier now that I travel with my family. Especially in Iran and China, our experiences were extremely positive as we were hosted by Couchsurfers who also had a family.
As a host, have the kind of people you welcome to your home changed?
I’d rather say the kinds of requests we receive have changed. Now we mostly receive requests from families, couples or girls who travel alone and feel more comfortable to be hosted by a family.
What is the reaction of your son Bruno when new people arrive at your house?
Our son loves hosting Couchsurfers at home! He thinks all these travellers are friends. Bruno likes to play and interact with other Couchsurfers even if they often don’t understand each other because of existing language barriers. He also likes surfing other people’s couches a lot; during our last trip to Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia, each time we left our host’s house he was sad but he was also excited to meet our next host. It made him believe we have thousands of friends!
“Bruno likes to play and interact with other Couchsurfers even if they often don’t understand each other because of existing language barriers.”
Overall, do you recommend Couchsurfing for a travelling family and a hosting family?
Of course I do. It is a great experience to host or be hosted by other families, especially because our children can learn to be open minded and have a positive attitude towards strangers.
What role do you want Couchsurfing to play in your children’s education?
It is very important for us that Bruno can grow up meeting different people in different cultures. Couchsurfing allows him to learn how to respect other people’s diversity. He already recognizes many countries in the globe and also knows many flags. It is a game for him.
For Nirvana, Marianna’s 18 years old daughter who also lives with us, Couchsurfing is an opportunity to practice and improve her knowledge of other languages, as she is majoring in French and English.
Do you think Bruno will become a Couchsurfer, too?
I don’t know. It will be up to him to decide. Parents often think they know what is best for their children, but children may grow up having a different opinion. The point isn’t whether he will be a Couchsurfer or not; what my wife and I hope is that he will learn from the experiences he lives through Couchsurfing to be curious and to respect all the wonderful cultures and people that live in the world. He already has many friends around the world… the people we met as hosts and guests. If he decides to travel like we do, he already has many friends waiting for him!
“My wife and I hope is that he will learn from the experiences he lives through Couchsurfing to be curious and to respect all the wonderful cultures and people that live in the world.”
Do you have children? Read our Family Couchsurfing tips!